Therapy is not something that we usually talk about in the black community. I had many reasons why I wanted to try counselling in 2019, so one of my 2020 goals was to attend a few counselling sessions. Hence, I’m going to be pretty vulnerable and explain how counselling can improve your mental health and what you should expect during your first meetings.

A back story;

We all have a past, a childhood, some aren’t so joyful as others (especially those I used to see on TV). Some of us growing up were bullied, had absent parents or was simply misunderstood. Well, I experienced all 3, and that impacted the decisions I’ve made until today.

Let me say that my childhood wasn’t the greatest. I mentioned a little story on how my childhood was in How I changed my mindset in 3 small steps blog post. To be more precise, I got bullied, laughed at and sometimes embarrassed; you get the picture.

The result, I was more of a quiet child, ask my siblings they will tell you. I don’t talk about my issues or my life in general, that’s not me. Therefore, when I grew up, it was harder for me to make new friends while losing many.

Why I decided to seek counselling:

In today’s social media world, there’s the word “social,” something that I’ve never been good at. After my depression in 2018, I wanted to remove everything that might bring me back to depression. As a result, I set my goal to seek counselling in 2020 to see if I needed it.

At my previous employment, a co-worker mentioned that I can get in a counselling program through our employer. That was the first time I heard that employers had a free counselling session for employees. I was very interested, but I had my doubts about it, so I never reached out to human resources.

When I got employed at my current job, they gave me a small calendar for my desk. On that calendar, there were many mental health quotes and “how-to,” and there was an employee program if you needed to speak to someone. I thought to myself, this is a sign! I have been waiting for this, I should reach out directly to them.

But of course, it took me about a month to reach out. I was somewhat afraid to open up, even if it was a professional. I was scared of knowing that I had issues LOL. 

My little research before counselling;

Finally, I decided to talk to people that had an experience. I spoke to two people about their therapy journey; one said that it helped him immensely, and the other felt like it wasn’t what she needed. They were both right, and I thought that therapy wasn’t for me either. I thought that I was okay living the way I lived, and opening-up wasn’t my thing. 

By the way, ever since I started meditating, I learned how to listen to my inner body. My “intuition” was telling me to try, so I couldn’t give up there. One day, I had lunch with a beautiful friend of mine, and she rushed me to call. However, I only called 2 weeks later, silly me. Finally, I called, I didn’t know what to say, but I was genuine with the lady on the phone:

She was doing her job asking me if I had intentions to hurt myself and all the other questions they have to ask. I told her that I want to know if I need therapy if I could speak to a specialist. I’m not in a crisis or something, but I wanted to check up on my mental health. Side note: This was before the quarantine. 

My first two meetings;

Shortly after, the counsellor called me to set up a meeting. Two weeks before quarantine started, he was very friendly and professional (duh, what else to expect). Since my session was during quarantine, we changed the face to face meeting to over the phone. 

My first session; an hour

During the first meeting, he asked me if I had experience with counselling, how it works and if I had expectations. I went blank, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. My palm was sweaty, I was really nervous, so I said no, I don’t have any experiences nor have an idea what to expect.

So, he went on and described what counselling was about, and I really loved his explanation:

Counselling is like walking in the forest with a friend. As you’re walking, no one is ahead of you or behind, you guys are walking side by side. Although you’re walking side by side, you’re the one leading the way. You tell your friend to go left, they go left, you want to go right, they go right. If you’re scared to go ahead, this friend (therapist) is okay to do a u-turn and go another direction. On the other hand, your friend might ask you about a tree or a rock that you see along the way.

Not only it makes sense, but it also changes the perspective of the client and therapist relationship. I saw him more of a best friend, someone that I can tell everything.

I was all over the place when it started. I’m someone who barely talks about myself, so it took me 10-20 minutes to open up. The counselling is an hour-long, and here I was, wasting my time. As I opened up, I talked more about my current situation and things that bothered me—some things that I tried to solve in the past and how it affected my present. 

What I noticed during the first sessions;

What I noticed is that the counsellor will bring you back in your past. Maybe to try to make you think or find the main issue, I don’t know, but he was good at it. There will be things that you’ve never thought affected you, but he will point it out, which will make you think more about your situation.

My second session; still an hour

At my second meeting, I thought I was ready, but really I wasn’t. This time, I cried more than anything on the phone to a stranger. I realized that I was in so much pain than I thought. Looking at my past and understanding how things just build-up and it wasn’t my fault that it was the way it was.

For you, that’s reading this, up until now, know that this specialist did not add any comments on my stories. When I would tell him something, he would repeat the negative sentence that I was saying. 

Example: Victoria: “I always thought that my life was a sad story. Ever since I was a child, toys have been taken away from me. Today it might not be a toy, but I’ve lost friendship out of stupid fights which I don’t understand.” Therapist: “That’s a sad thing to say: nothing really belongs to you, and everyone takes things from you.

At that second meeting, I went straight ahead to my issues. After my first meeting, I was able to talk about it with my girlfriend. Talking about my first experience made me think, maybe I need counselling, or how long can this take? The counselling program was for max 8 sessions, and I will tell you how many I did in part 2.

Should you also try counselling?

I wanted to write this post in two parts because I learned a lot from my counselling sessions. I also wanted to show someone what to expect when you go through it. If you ever thought of trying counselling, you should. It really improves your mental health; it helps you build resilience.

It feels good to open up and share your story, especially to someone who will never take sides or change the subject and make it about themself. I needed to pour my heart out, and I did precisely that. By doing so, you will feel better and ready to be more productive. 

I know that counselling helped me with many different hurdles in my life: family issues, romance and friendship. I became more resilient and kept my goals and vision aligned. After counselling, I began to take good care of myself and remained focus on what made me happy.

Be patient with yourself;

I’m not saying that this will completely heal you. I also don’t believe that you need to linger on to your past, no, you need to move on. But, the conversation can go left or right or backwards. You’re the one in control, you don’t have to talk about things if you’re not ready.

Understand yourself;

It took me at least 2 months to try this, and it was one of the best decisions I made. It was also a good time, quarantine, where my stress level was at an all-time high. So take your time before calling. Ask around, and you can even reach out to me if you have more questions.

I will suggest that you go through it if you think you need it. Even when life is good, sometimes our behaviours speak louder. If you need to check your mental health during quarantine, well now it’s post quarantine, please do.

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